Transcript: How to Launch and Manage Your Sales Reference Program as a Team of One with Liv Schichtel

On this episode, I was joined by Liv Schichtel, Customer Marketing Manager at AvidXchange. A popularly requested topic for this show is around sales reference programs, including how to set them up and how to scale them. Liv came highly recommended as a marvelous example of a team of one who has been able to increase her pool of references by 4X in a year by implementing thoughtful processes and partnering with other teams. She’s incredibly data-driven and I love how she’s constantly thinking about how she can improve the program over time. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Liv. 

Margot Leong:  Hey Liv, thank you for joining us today. Really excited to have you on the show. 

Liv Schichtel: Hello! Yes, I’m excited to be here. Thanks, Margot . 

Margot Leong: I would love to hear a little bit about your background and how you ended up in your current role at AvidXchange.

Liv Schichtel: Yeah. So I started at a fintech company in Charleston called Blackbaud and started in a entry sales role, the cold calling the glamorous, there. And then got a feel for enjoying that customer side of things, really getting to hear from customers and from potential customers about what their pain points are and all of that. And then from there kind of moseyed into the different marketing world and all the different pieces of marketing. I was in content marketing for a little bit, social media marketing, email marketing. And then when I eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, I really narrowed down what kind of marketing I really liked and kind of even just going back to that first silly entry level role of cold calling people, I really knew that I enjoyed working with and speaking with customers, particularly the happy ones.

So that’s kind of how I ended up in my customer marketing role which is heavily – I kind of like to think of it as like the glamorous marketing customer role where I’m specifically talking to our happy, glowing customers who have really had a really good experience and want to be a reference, want to be featured in a customer story or in a video testimonial. So that’s kind of in a nutshell, how I ended up where I am. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, I always think because I came from a background, I started off in customer support and I always think like how lucky am I to be able to talk to pretty much almost exclusively happy customers, right?

Liv Schichtel: Yeah, it makes me a little bit more fun. A little easier on our end. 

Margot Leong: Yes, absolutely. Well, I would love to get a little bit more background information about the current company that you’re at. Talk to me about what AvidXchange does and a little bit more about just setting the scene for how big the company is, how many employees, a ballpark range of how many customers, that sort of thing.

Liv Schichtel: Yeah. So I work for Avidxchange. What we do is we offer accounts payable and payment solutions for companies and essentially like a magnitude of different industries, real estate, construction, HOA. And then we have more of our like new market. We’re constantly growing and we’ve been around for like 20 ish years. I want to say. And roughly customer-wise, I think we’re right around 6,000 and then, employee-wise, right around 1,500.

Margot Leong: Got it. That’s good to know. And helpful to sort of set that scene for the topic that we are going to be almost exclusively focusing on for this conversation, which I am incredibly excited to talk about because it is one of the most popular requests from our audience, which is all about sales references. 

And you came highly recommended, and sort of really impressed by what you have done in terms of building out the reference program over at your current company. So let’s start from the beginning, right. You joined AvidXchange. You were excited working and speaking with happy customers. Yeah, let’s talk about sort of the genesis, or how it came to be that you would take over what the reference program was at the time. 

Liv Schichtel: Yeah. So I started at AvidXchange maybe a little under a year and a half ago. AvidXchange had ReferenceEdge, the software that we use to host all of our references. They had that system in place probably a year or two before I arrived at AvidXchange. There was just one woman who was owning it, but it really wasn’t her main job. She had plenty of other priorities going on. She was really just there to keep it afloat. And if a sales rep asked for a reference, she would jump in there and fulfill it, but for the most part, it was very reactive. There was no real strategy behind getting new references or targeting specific types of references or really tracking any sort of metric there.

And I’m sure we’ll get to this in a minute, but a big thing is how, the fact that sales reps have their own personal references that they have in their back pocket that they really don’t want to put into a system for everybody else in the company to kind of grab at . And so there wasn’t really any strategy behind getting those references into the program or getting more sales rep buy-in to actually use the program. So that’s kind of where it started. 

I jumped in back in March of 2019. And it was really great because my role was very specific at first to the reference program. And so we already had senior leadership buy-in who recognized that this was really important. So that was just a really awesome thing walking into the company to know that I had that upper C-level support. 

Margot Leong: Great. So I would just love to understand, right. How did you think about approaching this? And I guess really, even before that, let’s go into what success looked like in your mind. Right? Basically what would you be happy with at the end of this?

Liv Schichtel: Yeah. So that has probably changed a little bit over time. But I think when I first started at AvidXchange, success to me was getting as many references as we possibly could in the program and getting sales to actually use it. So for that first kind of plan of attack, for lack of a better word, we really leaned on our customer success team at the time. And so that was the team that really had that one on one relationship with the customer, and was just there to kind of lean on when they had questions that may not be sales-related or really support- related. 

We incentivized our customer success team to really ask and reach out to customers that they thought that would be a great person to be a part of this program. And so that was huge just figuring out a plan there to at least get more customers in the program, because at the end of the day, if we want sales to use this, we can’t come to the sales team with an empty pool of references, you know?

So it was kind of like you had to pick one thing to do first. And so before we even really started launching it to our sales team or really making it a big thing, we wanted to make sure that we did have a good number of references there for them to even want to go to and for the sales team to want to come back to. Because if a sales rep comes into the program and there’s nothing there that’s specific to their industry or the products or any of that, then they’re not going to come back. And then it’s just kind of a domino effect from there. 

Margot Leong: There’s a few things I wanted to dig into there, right. Talking about CS specifically, you mentioned that you incentivize that team to ask and reach out to their customers. What incentives did you work out with them?

Liv Schichtel: Yeah. So we worked with the Director, the team lead of the customer success team to incorporate it into their goals. So they had specific goals, so it’s essentially the top three customer success managers to get the most customers in the program, they would get X number of dollars added to their paycheck at the end of the month. And so each, probably weekly, I would send out like a dashboard of where people were standing and with customer success, money was a very – I feel like with any team, really – if there’s money on the line, that’s definitely an incentive in itself. 

Margot Leong: I want that as well. 

Liv Schichtel: That was a big one. And something else we’ve been trying to do is like another extra day of PTO, just trying to figure out exactly what would incentivize that team. And it works incentivizing that customer success team because they would get on it. And we would send out email templates to that team as well, so that would be easy. We made a one pager that would explain exactly what being in the reference program would consist of for a customer. So that was really no confusion. And then we kind of just sent them on their way. And we saw a lot of benefit from that.  

Margot Leong: Great. You mentioned that you worked with the CS team lead, basically the team leader, to put these in place. I can see how the incentives on the individual level would be fantastic. But then how did that align with what the CS team was trying to achieve overall, right. Why was this appealing to the person at the director level who’s leading the team?

Liv Schichtel: Yeah, that’s a very good question, but I have a very good answer. So with the customer success team, and I’m sure every company is somewhat different, but our customer success team, the way they’re measured, didn’t have a lot of ROI attached to it. It was, they’re healthy, they’re doing well. There wasn’t really a number where it was, that customer is contributing X amount of dollars to the business. 

But with references, we could now give them that. We could show that because of your relationships that you’ve made, we’re turning these customers into references, which are then, then getting attached to closed won ops, which is getting us X amount of dollars at the end of each month, each quarter, each year. So that was very intriguing, to say the least, to that team. 

Margot Leong: That’s so cool. I really like that. So then when you guys were able to then share those metrics, did the CS team, adopt those in their own – I don’t know if it’s like metrics that you would track the team on, but would they then proudly share those out with their stakeholders, essentially?

Liv Schichtel: Yes. They would share those metrics with their higher up team, with the whole relationship management team in general. It became like a stat that they could kind of showcase and highlight that they’ve contributed to for the year, which was really big. 

Margot Leong: I like that.  As you said, I think very succinctly, it’s what is the value of the work that you’re doing around relationship building and to tie that to a specific close won op revenue metrics, something like that, at least it ties the two together because sometimes with success, it can feel a bit fuzzy or it’s hard to, to like have that immediate tie in and that sense of finality there. 

Did you learn anything when it came to working with customer success around the amount of work that is involved in their sort of day to day lives, right. Did they worry at all around touching their customers too much or making too many asks of their customers? Do you ever run into that issue? 

Liv Schichtel: So I think truly our customer success team was grateful that we finally had a reference program owner, so that instead of each customer success manager getting bombarded by a different sales rep every day asking about one of their customers, because at the end of the day, customer success was pretty much the place sales would go or anybody would go to understand if the customer was healthy, if they were a good place to speak to, or reach out to in any deal or what have you. 

So I would say that because I would only reach out to them so often, I wouldn’t be bugging the same rep each day. They didn’t really get wary of asking too much of their customers, because again, we were incentivizing them and they didn’t have to go out of their way to ask every single customer that they worked with. They could kind of make the best judgment call for their customer, for their relationship that they’ve already built with that customer to know whether or not they could ask. They’d do little slide presentations with their customers as well for their business reviews and all of that, and they just always incorporated the reference program at the end of those slides. 

So it didn’t always have to be a direct ask. It could just be at the end of one of their touch bases. Oh, by the way, have you heard of this? I’m not going to shove it down your throat. You don’t have to join by any means, but just to make you aware this is something that we do and you can earn rewards and prizes for participating. So that’s kind of the approach we took with that. I never wanted customer success to feel like they had to do or have to ask anybody, but it did make it a little bit easier, I think, having just one person as the point person to be the one requesting usage of their customer, instead of again, having the whole entire, 40-plus sales team coming at you, asking for references each day. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, I can imagine that actually as a definite selling point as well to the leadership and individual customer success, because when I’ve had that experience before working at smaller companies, CS is actually really grateful that there is a point is one point person. And it sounds like you really put those bumpers in place, everybody sort of goes through you first, basically, right, instead of talking to CS. And so it seems like it’s a lot less frantic or ad hoc, because you’re the person that all the requests funnel through. 

Liv Schichtel: Yeah, no, exactly. And even having our software, ReferenceEdge, that’s been extremely helpful once we got sales buy in to actually use that tool. So we set that up so that no reference can get contacted more than twice within 90 days. And so if a sales rep is going in there to see what they have for a specific reference need of theirs, there’ll be a little warning sign or a limit reach next to certain ones. So they’ll know that they can’t request those anymore because they’ve already been tapped into at least twice in that past 90 days. And so that’s just a really cool tool in general and has been extremely helpful. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, I think that’s really important, as we all know, to prevent sort of that burnout from our customers. So it was really that you wanted to make sure that in launching this, you didn’t want to come to the sales team, right, with an empty pool of references. So then first it was a matter of working with CS to see what you could get already to put into that program. So if that was like the first phase, how long would you estimate that took before you then moved into the next phase, which is engaging the sales team. Talk to me a little bit about that. 

Liv Schichtel: Yeah, it was all pretty quick. We tried to steamroll it and get it rolling as quickly as possible. So we have a sales enablement team, and so I worked very closely with that team to start rolling out videos of where to go to access this stuff and show them how easy it is to access the references. Because the biggest thing I’ve noticed when it comes to a sales team, or ours specifically, is that we need to make it as easy as possible. Their whole role is to close deals and they need to be doing that fast. It’s a very fast-paced job.

And so anything that’s going to take too many steps, too much time,  that they’re just not going to do it. Regardless of what company you work for, what sales role you’re in, that’s a very fast paced job and a lot of high pressure. And so we really wanted to make it as easy as possible for them. And so a big thing was kind of doing a quick one minute video showing where to go, a one pager that was like five steps to grabbing a reference or how to submit a reference request in two seconds. Those kinds of things where it was, this is clearly not going to take very much time. And we joined a lot of these sales teams’ weekly meetings, quarterly meetings, just to start showing how to do it, making it seem as easy as possible. Obviously to a point in the very beginning you’re going to have the old dog, new trick, not really wanting to budge, but sooner or later, especially when you get new talent joining the team, most new talent, they want to follow the rules. And so if you join that new sales reps onboarding and explain that this is the process, they’ll follow suit. 

And so it really just takes one or two people, what I’ve realized, to really fall in love with the program and be really big advocates for it to get more people on board. So essentially what I was trying to do was finding my own advocates for this advocate program, which is funny. 

Margot Leong: Yeah. The internal advocates is just as important as external advocates, at least in this role, because it is so cross-functional. And so let’s say that you found these people that really fell in love with the program and would be your advocates. How did you then get them to spread the word?

Liv Schichtel: It kind of just happened over time. I think. To even what you said earlier, customers are going to burn out or the customer that a sales rep may have leaned on for for years and has been extremely helpful and useful and would jump to join a reference call for their sales rep, they may go on vacation one week that you need them. They may get sick or have a bad day or get a new job, you know, you never really know. And so when that started happening, other sales reps started realizing, Oh wait, I need another reference. And then they’ll ask their buddies, and then another sales rep who’s used the program would highly recommend it. Like I mentioned earlier, just having the sales directors and the executives, very like strongly be on board with the reference program, that was very helpful as well. And just getting people to actually use it. 

 Margot Leong: I’d love to understand a little bit more about what that process looked like from the salesperson’s perspective. So I’m a rep in a certain stage of a deal. I would love to get a customer to talk to my prospect. And someone says, Hey, Liv knows this inside and out. She is your person to help you. Alright, where do I go from here? 

Liv Schichtel: So ReferenceEdge, the program I was just speaking of, it ties directly to our Salesforce. And so they go into the opportunity that they’re working in Salesforce and there’s a button that says, “Find reference accounts,” they click it, then it brings you to this page where you can filter by industry or the type of accounting system or the job title of a reference, that kind of thing. There’s a million different filters you can filter by. But once you do that, it’ll bring up all of the different references that we have in the program that fit that bill. And then you select it and you include any extra notes you wanted to incorporate, and then you submit it. 

And so then that would go straight to the customer success manager who owns that relationship and they would just be a second set of eyes, even though that reference or that customer had already joined the reference program. The tricky thing with the reference program is it’s not a snapshot of a customer’s awesome experience, it’s not a case study. It’s a real person who has good days, has bad days. 

And so having that extra approval from customer success is extremely helpful because even if a reference joined the program a week or two ago, the customer success rep would know today or yesterday, if something went wrong with the program or the product they’re using, they’ll have a little bit of extra know-how, I guess, about what the customer’s doing or how they’re interacting with our products. And then they have two days to approve it or decline it. And then once they approve it, the contact information and all of that goes directly to the sales rep who requested that reference. 

So we do make it very clear that for sales to request a reference, yes, in a perfect situation, they’ll get that contact information day of, which happens. But also it’s just a good practice to request it at least three to five days in advance, in the event that you go in there and we don’t have exactly the reference that they’re needing. Which then those would fall over to me where I would go and reach out to different customers that kind of fit their exact need for a reference. 

Margot Leong: Oh, got it. Okay. So then, so basically there’s another branching path here, right? Which is that the first process is that if I go into ReferenceEdge, I filter and I find the reference that would be good, then I choose that, it goes to the customer success manager. The CS manager says, yep, green light. And then the contact information of that reference gets sent to the rep. Is that correct? 

Liv Schichtel: That is exactly correct. 

Margot Leong: Okay, perfect. For that process, the sales rep gets the contact information. Then, do they have a specific template for how they would reach out to the customer? I’m guessing the customer already knew that they were part of the program, it’s probably not a huge surprise, but yeah. How did you sort of maintain or control for the quality of that interaction with the rep and the customer? 

Liv Schichtel: Yes. So from there, the sales reps are – the next step in that process for them would be to connect with that reference. So like a knee jerk reaction, especially if you’re so close to closing the deal, all the prospective customer wants is to talk to somebody and everybody always needs everything ASAP right when they need it. We very strongly encourage our sales team to connect with the reference prior to connecting the reference with their potential customer. We encourage them to jump on the phone, grab 5, 10, 15 minutes with that reference to go over the different questions that they know that their prospect will ask, the different pain points they may already be experiencing, or, having with the current situation that they have with their company. Kind of go over those things and also just make sure that that reference is able to speak to everything that they think that their potential customer is going to be asking or wanting to know more about, because that’s the biggest point of having a reference call is to get all those questions answered. 

And if you connect your reference and your prospect too early, or before you really know if they’re able to answer all those questions, then it does get a little bit muddy. And you’ll typically just turn around and need another reference because they’re not going to be able to answer everything that your prospect needs to know. 

Margot Leong: Got it. That’s like the quality control piece basically. 

Liv Schichtel: Yes. And it’s just protecting your deal. That’s always what I say. Like I’ll never make a sales rep contact the reference, I can’t watch over everything they do, but I always say it’s like, it’s protecting your deal. You’ve already worked this hard. You might as well, just what’s 10 more minutes of your day to touch base with a reference that could make or break a deal for you. 

Margot Leong: Absolutely. I mean, it is to their advantage, right. I mean, I think that was one of the top things that reps were anxious about is that they wanted to make sure that the reference that they were being given was actually able to fulfill those needs. So I like the way that you frame that. It’s protecting your deal and only takes 10 minutes and it also saves you some time as well that the rep is incentivized to take it from there, basically. 

Liv Schichtel: Yes. That’s where they take it. And then after that, the other thing that we encourage is for them to follow up, not only with their prospect, because obviously their main concern is their prospect, where my main concern is our customer. So we’re both protecting different people, but all for the same end goal of closing a deal. I encourage them to also connect back with the reference, because the reference may have information that the prospects not telling them, like, yeah, they had this question, this question, and this question also, that they might not have shared that with the sales rep. It’s always a good thing just to circle back with everybody. And then on marketing’s end, we do reward our references for just taking that time and giving us some support there. 

Margot Leong: Ah, yes, that makes sense. I really liked that sort of closing the loop and pulling that additional intelligence from the reference because the reference also, you know, like if they like the company, usually they won’t mind helping to jump on that call with sales and just say, Hey, here’s the intel of what the prospect was asking. Oftentimes that can be instrumental to helping to close the deal. So I love that there’s that additional closing the loop mechanism? 

Liv Schichtel: Yes. 

Margot Leong: Talk to me then about that separate path, right? Where, okay, the rep can’t find what they’re looking for in sort of that automated tool, ReferenceEdge, then they go to you, right?

Liv Schichtel: Yes. When a sales rep goes in and they can’t find exactly what reference they’re looking for, we might not have a reference specific to their need already in the program, then I will go to our full customer list and start narrowing it down based on the filters that the sales rep has given to me. And then from there, I’ll kind of go through Salesforce and make sure that I can kind of get a feel for their health at that time. And then also again, lean on our customer success team to angle me in a direction where they know that we’ll have like very like glowing, happy customers too, who would actually really want to jump on a call.

Because when you think about it, it’s not going to be every customer Even if a customer is super happy, really likes the product, really likes their experience with us, it’s not every single customer like that who’s going to really want to jump on a call or do anything like that. Because again, it does take time. So we’re looking for not only happy customers who are having a good experience, we’re also looking for happy customers who are through the roof happy. We want them beaming out of the phone to our prospects. So those are kind of few and far between, but we just want to make sure that we’re getting the sales rep not only a specific customer that will fit the need of their deal, but also a really happy one. 

So sometimes it does have to, there has to be a little bit of give and take, we make that very well-known to the sales rep at the time. Like if we’re looking at the customer list and we’re like, Oh, this is going to be a really small list of X, Y, and Z filters. We can have them reset the expectations for the prospect, maybe it’ll be two separate references. One that will speak to this piece and one that can speak to this. But there is some massaging to that if we realize that we don’t want to lose the happiness, the really powerful reference just because they’re an exact replica of the potential customer, you know. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, exactly. I mean, you, I like what you said about, yeah. Maybe we split this into two calls, right. To address like two sort of separate areas that the prospect is interested in because you’re really trying to optimize for the happiest customers that will speak to those specific things, versus trying to be more efficient and finding only one customer for everything.

And you’d also mentioned at the, you know, at the beginning of this, is that it can be hard to get sales you know, because they’ve got those references in their back pocket, to give up some of those good references, which is why you start also with customer success, that there’s a pool that they see. Talk to me about the process of working with reps around some of those back pocket references.

Liv Schichtel: Yeah. So it was for probably the first couple of months, it was a little harder to get them to kind of empty those pockets of references. But again, the fact that executive leadership and their directors really encouraged it, that was helpful, but also, it’s something that we love to do, but it works. We did do an incentive for sales and again, put a price tag on the people who sent to me the most potential candidates would get X amount of dollars added to their paycheck at the end of the month. And that sneaky worked way better than I ever imagined. 

So I do think that having that say the buy in from executives is huge. Also having those internal advocates, like I mentioned. And thirdly, just to get the last stragglers doing an incentive or working with the sales leadership, the VP of sales, getting his buy in and kind of working with him to see if you could incorporate an incentive. If they’re as bought in and understand how big of a deal references are and what that means, because when you really think about it, most people are going to ask for a reference. I know if our organization is looking at another product, we always ask to speak to another customer just to kind of hear their experience. And so if we know that that’s going to be happening quite often, almost for the majority of deals, then we need that buy in. And so just getting sales on board for that and then kind of kicking them into gear with a small little incentive to empty their back pockets, is kind of how it worked out really well for us. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, I love that. It’s always really interesting to me to think about the incentives because, you know, I’m always like sales. I mean, you guys make a lot of money obviously if you’re selling, right. But so that’s why I’m like, Oh, the amount of money that I can afford to give you is like a blip maybe on your radar, but no, actually, like, they’re really happy to get that money too. 

Liv Schichtel: That was one of our concerns. We went to our Sales VP and was like, is this actually gonna be a blink on their radar? And he was like, yeah, do it. They’ll definitely do it.

Margot Leong: I remember, like I was running this idea by one of my reps that I was closer with at a company. And, you know, it was like, is this X amount of dollar gift card really going to incentivize you when you guys can potentially stand to earn, you know, like, however many multiples of that, like in a year or per deal. And he was like, Margot, we are coin  operated. Like you just wave money in front of us and we will go after it, but we need, like, we need like the money to go after.

Liv Schichtel: And the competition. Posting dashboards – that goes a long way. People respond to when their names at the bottom of the list, they’ll jump, especially when their VP is on that email thread and their VP sees that they’re at the bottom with a zero. Nobody likes to look bad. So that was big too. 

Margot Leong: You know, we talked about at the beginning, right, what success looked like when you first started the program. And so talk to me about once you hit a place where you were like, ah, like, I feel good about what has been accomplished. I’d love to hear about what those results looked like and how you measured that. 

Liv Schichtel: Yeah, so when we first started and still now, we definitely are still measuring by this, we were measuring by new customers getting added to the program, new accounts. And those numbers did vary because sometimes you would have two different customers from the same account volunteering to be references. And so we would measure by those two numbers and then also the revenue attached to close won deals with the reference. So whenever a deal would close and there was a reference attached to that, we would then add up that revenue that we made from those deals at the end of each month, and just kind of track things that way.

But over the last couple of months, what we have been starting to look a little bit closer at, is close won deals with references attached compared to all of our close won deals in general, just to see, okay, this is awesome that we’re closing deals with references, but what is that looking like compared to the whole kitten caboodle? nd that’s kind of where we’re starting to narrow in now because obviously kind of backtrack a little here too. 

Another piece of my job is to create customer stories and explain to sales and marketing where we want to use customer stories. So that ideally at the end of the day, we’re not leaning on a reference or a reference call to really seal the deal with these prospects. We would ideally not like to use them at all, honestly, like we would love for our potential customers to be so sold and be so in love with our product and just wanting to sign without having to speak to somebody else. 

So we’re looking at all those close won deals with references attached and all of those without references at all. And kind of starting to survey sales and get an understanding of why they wouldn’t use a reference, when they’re using customer stories, if they are using customer stories, and if they weren’t going to use a reference from the reference program, why not? To make sure that we are actually using this huge program that we’ve created. 

When we’re looking at the comparison right now, compared to close won deals with references, it’s a big number, but then when you compare it to all of our closed won deals for the whole entire month, it’s a smaller number than we were expecting. And so if the reasoning behind the sales reps not needing a reference for the deals that they didn’t attach one to, if the reasoning is because the prospect didn’t ask for a reference or they used a customer story, then that is awesome. 

But if the reason is we couldn’t find one, I didn’t use the reference program, I used my own secret reference – we’re just trying to start to understand that a little bit more now, just to kind of get a feel for what that number actually really means.

We just got the program to a point where we’re like, this is awesome. We’ve grown it by at least four times as big as it was when I first got there. We’re now taking that pivot and kind of tweaking it and tweaking our goal to be okay, now that we’ve gotten it to this place where sales is using it – from what we can tell, we’re getting 30 plus requests from sales a month, that’s not even including from marketing for like webinars, stories, that kind of thing, but just from sales, for those reference calls. We just want to really, really make sure it’s getting used to the best of its ability.

Margot Leong: You know, it must be so satisfying coming in new to this type of program, I’m sure, and then building something out and as you said, right, increasing the amount of references by 4X . You know, being able to manage 30 requests coming in per month. And my guess would be that what you’re hoping to do is to continue to almost try and reduce the amount of work you’re personally doing to help with some of those edge case requests, because I’m guessing that as you continue to work with success, you’re continually replenishing that sort of self-serve pool, so that the amount of reps coming to you on that separate path is reduced, right? 

Liv Schichtel: Exactly, yes. That is the ultimate goal for me, not have to even think twice about the reference program. And even, it’s just funny, even thinking about the way we’re measuring, like when we’re looking at that close won deals with references attached number, it’s a catch 22 because I don’t want to use references all the time, but also we’ve done all this work we better be using the references. 

Margot Leong: It is interesting, right?  It’s good because you’re actually really trying to discern the difference between building something to build something, versus building something that is truly effective and can actually help to speed things along as they are, not what we think they are or project they are. That makes sense. 

Liv Schichtel: No, exactly. 

Margot Leong: You know, there’s been so many great takeaways from this discussion, I think this is going to be so helpful to a lot of our listeners that are, you know, needing a refresh of their current program or are going to be building out one from scratch. Is there anything that you would tell our listeners, you know, it could be around I wish that I knew this before going in, or just sort of high level advice that you think would be helpful.

Liv Schichtel: Yeah. I would definitely say that thanking and rewarding and kind of really humanizing the reference and the customers who are in that program. And I know I said this earlier, but the sales team, their main person that they’re really caring about is their prospect. So that means that we really need to be the ones really caring about that customer reference, and really making sure that they’re having a really good experience. And to your point from earlier, like we don’t want them to feel rushed. We don’t want them to feel like they’re being forced into a reference call or any of that. We want them to feel like this is an opportunity that this is something that we thought really highly of them to join a call.

So that’s kind of the biggest thing. I feel like it’s very easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of sales and them needing a reference yesterday and just rushing around. But at the end of the day, the biggest important thing in this role is that customer relationship and you don’t want to lose that customer relationship just to get another customer. Because then at the end of the day, you break even. So that’s my biggest advice is just make sure you’re looking out for your references. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, I think that’s really good. We’re not going to sacrifice what could be basically years and years of an amazing customer relationship for a short term win. So always making sure that you are having your customers’ interest at heart, because at the end of the day, how you take care of your customers, the relationships that you built, that’s a long-term play, right. And so, I love that that’s something that you really care about. And I think that, that’s the right mindset for how we have to be within this role and within this function. 

I forgot to ask earlier, just around how you reward your customers for taking these calls. Is there a program in place that addresses that? 

Liv Schichtel: Yes. So we have a customer community. It’s a platform where all of our customers can come and network and learn best practices. And the more they participate, the more points they’ll win and the more rewards they can win from that. And so customer’s activity as joining a reference call or being highlighted in the customer story or any of that – they’ll get more points added to their profile and the more points again, the more rewards they can win from that. And then also we’ll send over some thank you gifts occasionally. It depends on how many reference calls they’ve done previously and that kind of thing, but we’re definitely rewarding frequently. 

Margot Leong: Great. Is this Influitive, is that the software you’re using? 

Liv Schichtel: Yes, it is. 

Margot Leong: Got it. From a programmatic standpoint, is that something that you’re manually doing? Like once the customer says, yes, I’ll do this and they jump on the call. Are you manually logging that in or do you have some sort of integration on the backend that does that for you? 

Liv Schichtel: It does integrate. I usually just go in, I’m kind of OCD about it and I just like to make sure that the points get added. 

Margot Leong: Totally. 

Liv Schichtel: Sometimes I just do it manually, but there is an integration piece where that can be an automatic situation as well. 

Margot Leong: Last question is of course, if people want to connect with you, where’s the best place that they can find you?

Liv Schichtel: Yeah. So I’m on LinkedIn. I’m not on Twitter. I’m a LinkedIn-only girl. 

Margot Leong: Sounds good. I will put your LinkedIn into the show notes. But yeah, again really appreciate you taking the time. Thank you so much, Liv. 

Liv Schichtel: No, this has been great. Thank you, Margot. Have a wonderful rest of your Monday. 

Thanks for tuning into this episode of Beating The Drum. For more interviews with advocacy leaders and tips on creating customers that will sing your praises, head on over to our website, beatingthedrum.com. If you enjoyed today’s show, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts and don’t forget to rate and review us. If you know someone that would be a great fit for the show, I would love to hear about it. You can reach out at beatingthedrum.com. Take care, everybody.

 

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